I acquired quite a lot of books lately and promised all of the writers to write at least a little bit about it (and will probably edit all the little bits later to post to Goodreads as reviews; I don’t do Amazon). I don’t have the energy right now to give every book its own post, and I’d have done the two set in the same world in one post anyway.
I decided to split the post in two so I could at least post this part. Forthcoming: Shira Glassman, Erica Kudisch and Diane Duane (when I’ve finished the book by Diane Duane that I’m currently reading) (and the thing I’m writing with a deadline of, er, yesterday).
Linguist friends recommended this: my first exposure to E.M. Epps’ writing. (She says “please call me Emma” on her website, so I’ll do that, much easier to type). I had some trouble buying it because, as I said, I don’t do Amazon, but we found a way around it. Anyway, I’m supporting Emma on Patreon now so she’s sent me all the rest too.
I’m not usually fond of too much diplomacy or court intrigue and this book was hardly anything else, but I was fascinated all the way because it’s the working of diplomacy and court intrigue that we get to see, through the eyes of the interpreter Eliadmaru Faraa who not only has to translate the words, but to make sense of the meaning as well. The uneasy courtship between the prince and the princess, with the interpreter present throughout the early stages, is excellent.
Come to think of it, that I love The Goblin Emperor which is also hardly anything else than court intrigue is much for the same reason: the POV character trying to make sense of it.
There’s matter-of-fact magic, unexpected allies, and amusingly uncomfortable comedy of manners.
One Goodreads commenter praised the “lack of a sappy love story” in the book, and I like that too, but I’d rather have a love story without sex than sex with only questionable love (and even only questionable consent: the partners are very unequal). Not a shortcoming of the book or of the author, just a different preference. There is a love story, a very cute one, but it stays mostly in the background where it belongs while Eliadmaru is doing an exhausting and frustrating job.
A happy ending? Perhaps; at least not an unhappy ending, and people mostly get what they deserve. It leaves enough loose ends to want more in this setting. Or even to write fanfic!
And I got more in this setting! We meet Eliadmaru’s childhood friend, the sorcerer and priestess Lhennuen. When she is widowed — expected, but still a shock — she leaves her temple and prays in the forest, “do with me as You will”.
Well, I suppose she expected her prayer to be answered, but the answer is somewhat more than she bargained for. She’s sent to people who need her, though they don’t all appreciate or even know it. She gains friends and enemies, a lover (though she doesn’t actually fall in love with him; it’s friendship growing into a deep love) and a better grip on herself which she sorely needs by the end of the book.
I must reread it, but I think I love it best of the three of Emma’s books I’ve read until now — the people are so real, and that’s what I like in a book. The magic feels real too, very connected to the world, even more than in The Interpreter’s Tale because in this one it’s the protagonist herself doing the magic.
E.M. Epps, To Hell and Back Again … With a Little White Dog
This, on the other hand, is a magic-next-door book, Type B (or possibly A2; we don’t see anything of the world outside the story at hand). It’s screaming for fanfic, quite literally: “They followed Sam out of Hell, and that was a story in itself.” (Sam is the little white dog, in case you’re wondering.) Reminds me of the writer who came to my high school and said, when someone asked what happened to a minor character with a loose end, “You can make that up!” (This was Thea Beckman, and I’m eternally grateful to her because I think that’s what made me confident enough to keep writing. I always forget to credit her as writing inspiration along with Tonke Dragt, who first made me see that there are worlds within worlds. Probably because I can’t read most of Thea Beckman’s books any more because they tend to be preachy in spite of her being non-religious, but what she said at that time was catalytic.)
I love the way Emma takes traditional visions of Hell and brings them up to date. Charon as a coin collector makes so much sense.